Starting primary school
The run up to your child starting school can feel different for everyone. It might be an exciting step, but may also come with lots worries and questions. You and your child should be well supported throughout the planning process.
Together with the people that support your child, you can prepare your child for the move and have a plan for their support at primary.
When should planning start for moving to primary school?
Plans for your child to move to primary school can start from an early age. It’s best for everyone to have as long as possible to think about what support your child will need to prepare for school. It also means there’s plenty of time to make sure they’ll have the right school placement, and the right support in place when they start.
The law also sets timescales for when certain things must happen. No later than 12 months before your child is due to start school, the local authority must gather information about your child’s needs. They’ll do this via the nursery and any other people who work with your child. Then no later than 6 months before they’re due to start, they must give information about your child’s needs to those who’ll be supporting your child at school.
If your child has very short-term needs, this amount of planning might not be needed. But it’s still important that the nursery passes on any useful information about how they’ve supported your child to the new school.
How do I choose the right primary school?
Most children with additional support needs go to their local catchment mainstream school. Some children who need more specialist support might go to a special school, or a support base or unit at a mainstream school.
Whatever school your child goes to, it’s important to know that they will have the right to get the support they need.
To help work out where might suit your child best, it’s good to start by talking to the nursery and any other people who help support your child. They’re likely to have good knowledge of local schools and where might be a good fit. You can ask for a transition planning meeting to talk through whether the catchment school will be suitable, or if not what should happen next.
Our page Choosing the right school explains more about types of school and how placements are arranged. We also have more detailed information in our factsheet ‘School placements’, including advice on questions to consider when choosing a school.
Factsheet explaining the different types of schools that pupils with additional support needs might attend, how school placements are usually made, tips on choosing a school. and your rights to make a placing request to a school of your choice.
Can my child stay in nursery for an extra year?
If your child will still be 4 at the start of the school year in August, they do not have to start school yet. This is called ‘deferred entry’. If you choose to defer entry, your child will be eligible for an extra funded year of early learning and childcare hours.
Most local authorities have information on their website which explains the process in your area for registering your child for deferred entry. If you cannot find this information, you can ask your child’s nursery or the primary school for help.
If your child will be 5 at the start of the school year in August, they would usually be expected to start school then. This is because legal ‘school age’ in Scotland is from 5 until 16. In exceptional circumstances some children might still be able to defer entry. This is up to your local authority to decide.
Watch our helpline team answer key questions about starting or changing schools in our Q+A webinar:
Big moves: starting or changing schools Q+A webinar
Recorded Facebook Live session with advice around starting or changing schools
Many children with additional support needs benefit from an ‘enhanced transition’. This usually means extra visits to the new school, to help them get to know the building and staff. It also means extra meetings for everyone to plan together. Ask the nursery if you think this would help your child.
To help choose the right school, you can reach out to the local primary, or any other schools you’re considering. You can ask if you could visit, see a virtual tour, or have a call with someone about the support available.
If you don’t agree with the school that’s suggested for your child, there are several things you can do. For example, you have the right to make a ‘placing request’ to a school of your choice. Read our Choosing the right school page to learn more about this.